Strong opinions, weakly held

Vigilantes for politeness

Oliver Burkeman says we can all help keep society civilized by inflicting altruistic punishment on rude people that we encounter:

The study of happiness rightly focuses on such indisputable virtues as gratitude, generosity, and forgiveness. But any honest accounting of the sources of daily pleasure – for me, anyway – must include the exquisite joys of what I’ve come to think of as Politeness Enforcement Tactics: the guerrilla moves we use to avenge boorish behaviour in public places.

After reading it, I realized that I saw this sort of thing in action last weekend. I was third in line to use a communal grill, and when the person ahead of me started removing his cooked food, someone else just walked up and threw his two pork tenderloins right in the open space that I was about to use. (Rude!) The guy who was leaving apologized to me for unintentionally skipping ahead of me in line (even though he hadn’t), just to let the guy with the pork tenderloins know that people are supposed to take turns.

I’m going to look for more of these opportunities myself.


  1. One such tactic it to take the blame upon yourself.

    When you say “it was my fault”, even though it wasn’t, the other person is thrown off balance.

    The “blame game” is totally skipped and now it’s time to find the solution to the problem.

  2. The original MeFi post is here.

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